Seeing The Rolling Stones — “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”

[Editor’s Note: Frequent contributor Steve Vertlieb overcame recent health problems and after a great deal of suspense was able to celebrate his birthday at a rock concert in Philadephia. Happy birthday, Steve!]

By Steve Vertlieb: Here lies a tale interwoven by sadness, then joy … sorrow, then happiness … despair, then uplift … failure, then success.  It was some time following Thanksgiving, 2023 when Shelly told me rather excitedly that Mick Jagger, and “The Rolling Stones” were coming to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on June 11th, 2024.  I usually chose the seats for the two of us at such events but, as she was paying for the concert, she wanted to choose the mobile seats on her new cell phone for the first time.  She was like a little kid, radiantly overwhelmed by delight when she told me, quite proudly, that the tickets were successfully purchased, and that we were going to see the Stones … she for the second time, and myself for the first.

Now, normally, these tickets, once purchased, are sent to one’s cell phone within weeks, if not days, of their sale.  Whenever I’ve purchased mobile tickets for a concert in years past, they’ve appeared on my cell phone fairly soon after purchase.  Several months elapsed before mild concern began setting in.  She wasn’t terribly worried by this point, early in the new year, but we expected to see something by Spring of 2024.

By May of this year, however, we’d still heard nothing from the ticket seller, and a growing fear had begun consuming our conversation.  She’d made numerous telephone calls to the ticket seller, and was repeatedly advised that the tickets would appear on her cell phone in plenty of time for the show.  By Memorial Day weekend, she was growing frantic, while repeated phone calls to the ticket seller yielded little or no “satisfaction.”

By this time, I had scheduled and undergone major surgery to remove a large, protruding Hernia from my chest that had developed shortly after my last heart surgery two years ago.  Shelly was worried that my operation on Wednesday, June 5th, might present health challenges for my attending the concert.  As I was assured by the surgical team that I’d be fine after four days of recuperation at home, I told Shelly not to be concerned.

As the days passed uneasily into early June, she was growing frantic, having spent just under six hundred dollars for the two of us, with empty assertions by “Seat Geek” that the tickets would soon magically appear.  Repeated phone calls offered shallow promises of further investigation into the matter, yielding no results.  It was now just a week before the concert when Shelly received a text on her cell phone stating that the sale of our tickets had been cancelled.  She had set her heart on seeing “The Rolling Stones,” and was utterly consumed by both heartbreak and grief.  We telephoned “Seat Geek” together, and were told that this mysterious text was sent in error, and that the tickets would soon somehow magically appear.

Finally, after being held overnight in the hospital, due to shortness of breath and a tightness in my chest following surgery, the nurses at Holy Redeemer Hospital received a message from Shelly, stating that she had good news to tell me once I returned home on Thursday, June sixth.  It didn’t take much discernment on my part to understand that her good news meant that everything was straightened out at last, and that we were going to the concert.

My recovery from surgery was slow, and tinged by recurring bouts of discomfort and fear.  Indeed, on the evening prior to the concert, I felt both frightened and ill, barely able to lift myself up from the couch.  My eyes were glazed, and I began to worry that I might have inadvertently pulled something internally, causing inner bleeding. I wondered how I was ever going to go through the turmoil of stadium parking, and battling the crushing companionship of some sixty thousand fans.

When I awoke on Tuesday morning, June 11th, I felt markedly better and began preparing for that evening’s challenges.  We’d gone to many stadium concerts over the past ten and a half years, but I was younger then, and better able to handle the nearly insurmountable human interaction at huge stadiums. At age seventy-eight-and-a-half years, however, I was less inclined to deal with situations requiring the depths of physicality that I had dealt with in my younger years.

Still, the evening arrived, and we drove into the parking lot of the huge sports complex.  Once parked, we endeavored to find our way into the stadium, walking for what seemed an eternity in the humid June night.  That’s when the uncertainly once more reared its insidious head.  After being told by numerous guards that we were walking through the wrong gate, we at last found the right entrance to the stadium.  Shelly handed her cell phone to the gate keeper, as they tried numerous times to scan her bar codes.  They weren’t working, and we were told that the tickets were invalid.  By this point, I was growing weary and dispirited by perspiration in the humid evening.  A supervisor was summoned who tried differing methods to confirm the tickets, but nothing worked.  Finally, he found her e-mail confirmation, and sent a ticket code to her cell phone messaging.  We were in, and permitted to enter.

After quite literally battling our way through the crowds to the bathrooms, we tried to find our seats.  I was nearly knocked to the ground by a boorish fan on his way to the concession stand. I asked Shelly what our seat numbers were, and she could only tell me that they were in the section marked “General Admission.”  Growing both frustrated and visibly distressed, I screamed “then how the hell are we supposed to know where to sit?”  She was as confused and dumbfounded as I.  When she told me initially how much the tickets had cost back in late November, I properly assumed that we’d be seated in “nose bleed” territory.  She grew offended in the days prior to the concert when I asserted that the tickets were cheap, and really not a lot of money for tickets to see “The Rolling Stones.”  Having gone to a great many concerts over the past sixty years, I had an idea what good seats to see the “Stones” might have cost, and that a price tag just under six hundred dollars for the two of us was not remotely excessive.

As we stood in line to go up to our seats, we were told instead to walk down to the stadium floor.  That’s when the awful truth and utter horror began to set into my already enfeebled brain.  On the floor of the stadium were row after row of expensive chairs.  Behind these stood literally hundreds of standing fans.  I searched desperately for a sign of chairs below them, but could find none.  As we descended the stairs, Shelly looked up at me and said that we would have to stand for the entire two hour concert.  That’s when the reality of “General Admission” became all too painfully apparent.  There were no seat numbers because there were no seats.  I was on the verge of both physical and emotion collapse, and said to Shelly that I didn’t have the strength to stand in the back of the arena for an entire concert.  I told her that I was going to climb back up to the lobby and try to find a bench to sit on, and that I’d see her AFTER the concert.  Our eyes met pathetically, and I wondered if this might be the last evening that we’d ever see one another. Shelly looked at me with eyes filled with sorrow, utterly helpless to control a situation that neither of us might ever have considered. I was distraught beyond imagining.  

Finally, in utter despair, exhaustion, and frantic desperation, I approached a female security officer, and said … “Look, my girlfriend bought these tickets in utter ignorance of the reality of what “general admission” meant, and that I was a seventy eight year old heart patient, while Shelly was a seventy one year old, two time Cancer survivor.  Was there ANYTHING that she could do to help us.”  She said “hang tight … Don’t go anywhere … Let me see what I can do.”  She came back five minutes later, and asked us to follow her.  Shelly put her hand in hers, while I followed behind with a male security guard holding onto my shoulders so that I wouldn’t fall.  They set up two folding chairs for us off to the side of the expensive seats, issued us new tickets, and sat us both gently, and tenderly into our chairs.  They smiled, held our hands, and said “enjoy the show.”  I was overwhelmed by their kindness, and said “thank you so much. God Bless You.”

The show was utterly fabulous.  Mick Jagger strutted onstage like a twenty-year-old rooster.  Then Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods appeared. The evening sky was lit with electricity from the moment that the legendary band made its way onto the stage. We had great seats with a wholly unobstructed view.  I’m guessing that our new seats might have been valued at two or three thousand dollars. After a two-hour set, the band left the stage, yet the giant arena remained darkened.  They returned to the stage moments later singing, perhaps, their most iconic song, “I Can’t Get No … Satisfaction.”  We found it difficult to relate to the popular tune’s lyrics for, despite its familiar refrain, we remained lovingly draped in utter and complete “satisfaction.” At the conclusion of the show, I asked a gentleman nearby if he could grab my right arm and help me to stand up.  The security guards assigned to guide the massive crowd to the exits saw us, and asked if we needed wheelchairs.  I said no at first, but they persisted.  They wheeled us out of the arena, waited patiently as we went to the bathrooms, and then accompanied us to the outer gates of the stadium.  I began to take two twenty dollar bills out of my wallet to say thank you for their kindness, but they politely refused, saying that they were not permitted to accept tips.  As we were helped out of our wheelchairs, I turned to them and gratefully said “God Bless You for your kindness.”  Hence, what began as a nightmare turned into one of the best concert experiences of our lives.

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4 thoughts on “Seeing The Rolling Stones — “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”

  1. I thought Ron Wood had left the group? Glad to see he’s back. It’s still hard to think of the Stones without Charlie Watts.

  2. Great Stones story. While I have seen the Rolling Stones twice, the most recent show was in, I believe, 1978.

    @Troyce It was bassist Bill Wyman, not Wood, who left the group

  3. Would’ve been frantic about the tickets too, and God has a better sense of direction often. It had to be an Outstanding, kickin’ Great Concert, saw them in San Francisco back around 1980 straight, Best Concert Ever!!!!!

  4. Steve (bless his heart) is 78, and going to the concert nearly overwhelmed him. Mick and Keith are 80, and dance around and put on a killer rock show.

    Moral: Steve should have taken more drugs along the way, to preserve himself.

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